Chicken Salad with Tarragon

Inspiration for good food can be found anywhere, even Starbucks, where I had a delicious chicken salad sandwich recently. The key ingredients other than chicken? Sweetened dried cranberries and tarragon.

French tarragon is a distinctive herb, with a slight anise or licorice aroma. We don’t use it that often; I grew some last year and don’t think we used it more than once or twice the whole season. But it does pair well with chicken. The dried cranberries add some sweetness to the chicken salad, and the lemon juice just enough acidity to brighten all the flavors.

Chicken Salad with Tarragon Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken meat*
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried tarragon (or 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

* Poach about 1 1/2 lbs of skinless chicken breasts and thighs, preferably bone-in (for flavor), in a quart of salted (2 teaspoons) water, for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from water, let cool, remove bones, chop the meat into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes.

Method

Mix all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning. Serve with lettuce for a simple salad, in a tomato that has been cut open for a stuffed tomato, or with slices of bread for a chicken salad sandwich.

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45 Comments

  1. Dawn

    I used to get the tarragon chicken salad at Au Bon Pain all the time. They didn’t use the cranberries, but they did add sliced almonds…delicious!

  2. alamobecky

    I love this kind of recipe … just one or two “special” ingredients that send an average chicken salad sandwich into the $9.75-if-I-bought-it-in-a- bistro category. I’m going to add some chopped toasted pecans in mine. Thank you, Elise.

  3. Chriss

    If you like, you can add with some toasted almond slivers. It adds another layer of flavor. I’ve enjoyed chicken salad like this for years. I love this site…so many great (and delightfully uncomplicated) ideas!

  4. ICE

    Adding walnuts to this recipe works well, too.

  5. Cooking with Amy

    There is an awesome version of this salad with grapes and pecans in addition to tarragon. I had it at a bridal shower and it quickly became one of my favorite chicken salads.

  6. Tammy

    Jerry-

    Try dried cherries if you don’t dig the tartness of cranberries- you wouldn’t believe how sweet and tasty they are in chicken salad, plus you still get the pretty red color.

    Elise, this looks lovely!

  7. butterbean

    Try tarragon with peas and a little butter. Yum!

  8. lydia

    I have an enormous tarragon plant in my herb garden, and every summer I make tons of chicken salad with tarragon. It’s a lovely combination.

  9. erin

    I made this for lunch today. I used canned chicken breast. Instead of chopping up the celery and putting it in the mixture, I used the celery stalks to “scoop”. It was delicious and perfect for a healthy lunch!

  10. Cindy

    This was amazing. So simple – short list of ingredients. Next time I might at some walnuts or almond slivers.

  11. Cicero's girl

    I’m surprised to hear you haven’t used the tarragon you grew. All summer, I tuck sprigs of my garden-grown tarragon along with a quartered lemon and a couple of garlic cloves inside a small chicken. The wonderful scent of the roasting bird is enhanced by the smell of the tarragon; it’s so good that I keep foil-wrapped sprigs of tarragon in the frreezer so that we can enjoy the chicken w.tarragon experience year round. In addition, even in our New Jersey climate, the tarragon plant is perennial and spends the winter outside. Make sure the plant you grow is the French tarragon; the Russian tarragon is not half so flavorful.

    Thanks for your wonderful site, Elise, and thanks to your Mom and Dad for all the marvellous recipes. They are inspirational.

  12. Larry

    Elise, I tried this almost immediately after you posted it, seeing I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand.

    I’ve had the Starbucks Chicken Salad you talk about, and I have to tell you that this is way better…I ended up toasting some cashews up and mixing them in too, it gave a nice foil for the creamy mayo and sweetness of the cranberries.

    this is the kind of stuff that makes you go crazy and eat more than you should. THANK YOU!!

  13. Leisureguy

    Fresh tarragon is also great with fish—and it’s so different (more complex) than dried tarragon.

    When poaching the chicken, I suggest first putting in the water a cut-up onion and a coarsely chopped stalk of celery and carrot, perhaps with some peppercorns and a good sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Bring that to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so, then cook the chicken.

    After you remove the chicken, you could add the bones back to the broth and simmer more, if you want. Then strain the broth and you have some fine chicken stock for later use with practically no additional work.

    When I made this yesterday, TJ’s didn’t have dried cranberries, but I got dried Bing cherries for this time and some dried blueberries for next. And I did add some English walnut pieces.

  14. Tatyana

    I made this salad with golden raisins and almond slices. Then I used it as a filling for tortillas adding some cheese and warming them up slightly on both sides. Great lunch!

  15. AuntieMurry

    Elise – This was absolutely delicious, and I’m not even a big fan of chicken salad. My husband, who normally shuns mayonnaise, couldn’t get enough of it. Great, great site. I love the way you include your parents in your essays. Well done.

  16. Jeeves

    I just made this recipe and LOVED IT!
    it has all these unique flavors going on at the same time, and is light years better than the typical boring chicken salad. I think next time I might put even more dried cranberries.

  17. liz

    I made this for dinner tonight with a grocery store rotisserie chicken and left out the celery because I can’t stand it. It was yummy but next time I’m adding toasted almonds. My husband really liked it and he’s not usually a fan of “lady food”.

  18. danielle

    Thanks so much!
    I came online looking for this exact recipe. I even kept the container the sandwich came in. I was so impressed with the tastyness of the sandwich from starbucks. Went very nicely with my mocha frapaccino. Can’t wait to try the recipe! I really can’t tell you how glad I was to find this online. No, seriously. Hehe. Good job figuring out the recipe. I hope it’s as good as this sandwich was.
    Thanks again!

  19. chloe

    I made this today and it was really good. I’ve never used tarragon until today. I agree with one of the previous comments…I think next time I’m going to add a little more dried cranberries.

  20. Sandy

    I have decided to make this for an upcoming luncheon but your recipe does not state how many servings. Approximately how many servings will come from the listed ingredients?

    It depends on how you are using the chicken salad, whether or not you are stuffing it into a tomato, using it for sandwiches, etc. I think this batch makes enough for about 3 or 4 people. ~Elise

  21. Amy C

    I love chicken salad with tarragon. At the end of the summer when I am trying to use up my tarragon and apples are coming in, I add a chopped-up granny smith. It really adds another layer to the salad, making it eve more complex (and the tarragon and apples work really well together).

    I also use a rotissere chicken from the store (I get the “lemon pepper” one), the depth it adds is wonderful (and in the hot summer, you don’t have to turn on the stove at all!)

  22. KissTheChef

    I’ve been making something similar for years. If you aren’t a fan of mayo, try cutting it half and half with either sour cream, or for a true health boost, greek yogurt. That adds protien without as much fat. Adding toasted nuts is a must. I’ve tried it with every nut possible, including pine nuts. All are awesome, but you should really try toasted salted green pistachios for a real treat. Also, if you like spice, add a touch of red pepper flakes or finely diced fresh jalapenos.

  23. Stacia

    I’ve been making this recipe for a few months now, ever since I first saw it on your site. I love it! It’s really great for summertime, but we have it year-round even though neither of us are big chicken salad fans. The fresh tarragon is really wonderful with this.

  24. Stephanie

    I love chicken and tarragon.. but I always make my chicken salad with cut up boiled chicken, granny smith apples, red onions, tarragon, and little bit of lemon. I go light on the mayo as well. Buy some yummy foccia (sp) and place upon and you have a fab cafe-worthy sammy. This always goes over well at parties.

  25. Jill

    Yet another rave from us- it was great, esp on this hot and humid summer night. I thought the flavors were well balanced and I loved the effect of tiny pieces of diced up dried cranberries, so pretty and delicious. Your blog is awesome!

  26. Jen

    I made this last night for a yummy summer dinner. We didn’t have any celery (although that would have added a nice crunch), but I added sliced almonds and dried cherries (instead of cranberries). I put it on top of organic baby spinach and it was delicious. Thanks for the great recipes!

  27. farida

    This is one delicious salad! I can tell from the way it looks and from the ingredients that go into it. I love fresh tarragon. Love love its aroma. In summer, the Azerbaijani table always has fresh tarragon – we eat it with cheese, meat or soup, sort of a side dish. So, this salad is particularly appealing to me because of tarragon:) We make similar salads, but I haven’t seen any with tarragon and celery. Printing it.

    Oh, one idea – some chopped walnuts would go perfectly well in the salad. My Azerbaijani blood is speaking:)

  28. Valencia

    Elise — you do wonderful work, and I, too, love that you include your parents. We have a “compound” of properties with my family, multi-generational, so that involves accommodating many tastes.

    Try chopping up tarragon with a mixture of mayo and a bit of mustard, letting it mature for a few hours, and using it as a spread for sandwiches or a dip for artichokes. Roasted pork and this dressing is a favorite sandwich at our “Hacienda.” Also, tarragon makes for a wonderful herbed vinegar.

    Warm regards and thanks!

  29. Jim

    Outstanding recipe! As much of a coffee junkie as I am, I’ve never noticed it at Starbucks, so thanks for posting it. Very light and a great choice for those summer afternoons. There’s a strawberry-tarragon recipe I have that I’m going to have to try following the sandwich with.

    Anyway, to help cut fat (and calories) I tried it with about half and half no-fat yogurt and light sour cream for the zip (instead of mayo). It worked out great with a subtle tang that went well with the lemon.

  30. Tami

    Chicken salad with grapes and walnuts, so good. I like it with dill and lemon rind too. Also, cut calories by using plain greek yogurt instead of mayo.

  31. Wendy

    Very nice combination, not usually a fan of taragon but it works really well with the chicken, and the cranberies give it that special something something! Thank you Elise!

  32. Michelle

    Thanks so much for posting this! This has always been a favorite of mine at starbucks and I wanted to make this for my art friends coming over Sunday for a day of crafting.
    I’m sure they will all be really impressed with it!

    Thanks again!

  33. BJ Woods

    I made a similar concoction after having eaten the Starbucks version of the sandwich.

    I make it all the time, now!

    Last year for a mother’s day brunch, I had planned to make it, but was out of fresh chicken, so I opened a can of chunked chicken and used that. Canned chicken has a bit of an off-taste, so in the mayonnaise, I stirred in about a teaspoon of horseradish sauce (the kind that comes in a squeeze bottle for roast beef sandwiches, etc.). The chicken salad had a nice kick to it after I did that! I spread the mixture onto whole-grain cocktail bread for the brunch, for little finger sandwiches! I also served cut up veggies with rosted red pepper hummus for dipping, and red seedless grapes, and for dessert, we had a chocolate raspberry sorbet.

    Nice spread!

  34. Chanel

    I just made this last night and it was so delicious! Im not a huge fan of cranberries, but they taste great in this salad. Just enough sweetness. Thank you so much for another wonderful recipe!

  35. Lindsay

    Oh my GAAASH! This was amazing. I made your cardamom honey chicken last night and rolled that into this for leftovers. SO GOOD!

  36. Alison

    We loved this! As another commenter suggested, I used the meat off a lemon pepper rotisserie chicken (I was in a hurry). I also added about 50% more dried cranberries and some extra tarragon (fresh, not dried). I had a couple of ladies over for lunch, and they were both highly complimentary and wanted the recipe. Thanks again for yet another winner! I’ll definitely make this again.

  37. Crystal

    I am a cranberry addict of of recently and I wanted to make Friday’s lunch extra special instead of my usual hummus and pita! I have never even had a chicken salad and just wanted to use up the rest of my dried cranberries I had left over from Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti! I typed in cranberries on your site and this recipe came up I am not disappointed! Tomorrow I’m rolling this into a flat bread and will be splitting it for lunch and dinner! Also, I would like to point out that the chicken thighs are a must! Way more flavor.

  38. Tina

    Thank you,
    from a satisfied foodie =D

  39. Dora

    I always make recipes from this site and am never disappointed. The tarragon chicken salad, however is my first disappointment and hopefully the last. I love cranberries and usually add them to possibly anything I can but for some reason, the tarragon and the cranberries didn’t taste good together at all. The tarragon is overpowering, and the cranberries are too sweet. I felt like I was eating a tarragon plant and couldn’t taste anything else, luckily I didn’t serve this to guests.

  40. Penelope-D

    Amazing recipe (i only used fresh ingredients and organic thighs). I’ve been eating this almost daily for the past 2 weeks. The tarragon/cranberry combination can be a bit overwhelming but I’ve discovered that a helpful amount of arugula balances and completes the dish quite nicely.

  41. Cherry Hanz

    Thank you so much for putting this recipe up. We had a lot of smoked turkey left over from Thanksgiving and my daughter wanted to make the turkey into a salad sandwich with cranberries like the one at Starbucks and here is the recipe! Just what I was looking for. Thanks again.

  42. Tina

    I’ve made this chicken salad twice. One day, I realized that I was spending almost 6 dollars on a sandwich that I could probably have made myself–especially because it was made with, what Starbucks calls, “real food.”
    Both times, I have added apples (finely chopped) for a juicy fresh flavor, and used more dried tarragon (about 1.5 tbsps. I have a crude palate!) But otherwise, I think this recipe is PERFECT. The flavor is wonderful, and it’s nice to look at.
    I haven’t spent $5.95 on a Starbucks sandwich since!

  43. JW

    Thank you for this recipe. It was awesome!
    I’m dieting so I made a few changes…
    I made it with homemade roasted chicken breast. I also added 1/4c cashews to mine and (another batch with a 1/4c of almonds for my hubby who prefers almonds).

    I made it with 1/2c of greek plain yogurt instead of mayo. I mixed the yogurt with the lemon juice, salt & pepper, and a dash of dill, then mixed that with the other ingredients. I then wrapped the chicken salad in a lettuce wrap.

    WOW that was filling, refreshing and amazing.

    Next time I think I’ll use fresh dill instead of dry.

  44. Mary Morris

    I served this to some of my women friends after a beautiful morning picking too many cherries in eastern Contra Costa County, CA. I made a double plus recipe yesterday using fresh tarragon and today plopped a generous scoop over each plate adorned with a bed of fresh butter lettuce. EVERYONE wanted the recipe, so I just directed them to your website. There was some lettuce left on a few plates, but no chicken salad. Thanks yet again for another great recipe!

  45. Ken

    Excellent recipe! I made it for a special lunheon and it was a big hit. The only thing I did different was that I bought a rotisserie chicken breast from the supermarket and shredded it. Thank You

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